On Friday, an elementary school instructor in Washington DC reportedly forced her class to perform a reenactment of the Holocaust, in which she cast a Jewish child to play Adolf Hitler.
The children belong to the third-grade class of Watkins Elementary School, which would make them eight and nine years old.
According to one parent, her child was made to act like he was on a train headed towards a concentration camp, before being told to pretend as though he was dying in a gas chamber. He was also allegedly told to act as if he were shooting his classmates.
Principal Scott Berkowitz e-mailed parents at the school in which he detailed the events of the class, which said that the unnamed instructor ordered the class to simulate shooting their classmates and then to dig mass graves. According to the e-mail, the instructor also forced a Jewish child to play Hitler before telling him to pretend to commit suicide, as Hitler did. Following the incident, the entire class met with the school’s mental health response team.
Principal Berkowitz said: “I want to acknowledge the gravity of this poor instructional decision, as students should never be asked to act out or portray any atrocity, especially genocide, war, or murder.”
Friday’s class in which this took place was supposed to be for the students to work on a self-directed project which they would then present to the class, but the instructor allegedly used this time to instead carry out the Holocaust reenactment.
The instructor, who is now on leave, pending a school investigation, reportedly made antisemitic comments throughout the reenactment, which included responding to the children’s question as to why the Nazis carried out such atrocities against Germany’s Jewish population by saying that it was “because the Jews ruined Christmas”. The instructor also reportedly asked the students not to tell anyone of the reenactment, though the students informed their homeroom teacher of the incident.
The incident was reported to Washington D.C. Public Schools’ (DCPS) Comprehensive Alternative Resolution and Equity Team. A spokesperson for DCPS said: “This was not an approved lesson plan, and we sincerely apologize to our students and families who were subjected to this incident.”
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “The reports of what took place in this class are so shocking as to be unbelievable. Ordering eight- and nine-year-old children to re-enact the Holocaust, including pretending to shoot one another and dig mass graves while their instructor hurls antisemitic insults at them and a Jewish child is made to play Hitler and re-enact the Nazi leader’s suicide, is not merely racist and of no pedagogical value, but is traumatising for the children, professionally derelict for the instructor and potentially abusive. It is right that an investigation takes place, and if the reports are borne out, the instructor must be fired and the school board must open its own inquiry.”
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